UK’s Sunak speaks out against rise in extremism, criminality

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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Friday said Britain’s multi-ethnic democracy was being deliberately undermined by extremism and far-right extremists, calling for a tougher approach to policing protests in light of an increase in hate speech and criminality.

British lawmakers this week have been given funding for new security provisions after some faced threats for expressing support for Israel in its war with Hamas.

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“I fear that our great achievement in building the world’s most successful multi-ethnic multi-faith democracy is being deliberately undermined,” Sunak said in a speech outside his Downing Street office, adding there had been a “shocking increase in extremist disruption and criminality.”

Gaza has been bombarded by Israeli forces for months since the Palestinian militant group’s deadly rampage in southern Israel on Oct. 7.

Sunak said that people had the right to protest and demand the protection of civilian life in Gaza, but could not use that cause to justify the support of Hamas, a proscribed group, and said he wanted police to “not merely manage these protests, but police them.”

He added that “extremists and the far-right feed off and embolden each other” and were “two sides of the same extremist coin.” He said that people in the country on visas would have their right to be in Britain removed if they “choose to spew hate.”

Sunak, who has supported Israel’s right to respond to Hamas, said that the election of veteran left-winger George Galloway to a parliamentary seat was “beyond alarming” and accused him of dismissing the Oct. 7 attack.

Responding to Sunak’s comments in an interview with Channel 5, Galloway said he had been assaulted himself in 2014.

“I’m as much against extremism and violence as anyone else and probably a little more so given my personal experience,” he said.

Sunak also cited events in parliament last week, when the speaker Lindsay Hoyle broke with precedent to allow a vote that helped the opposition Labor Party avoid a large-scale rebellion among its own lawmakers over its position on the Israel-Hamas war, causing other parties to walk out.

Hoyle later apologized and said that threats to lawmakers had motivated his decision to allow lawmakers to express a range of views.

Sunak has called on all sides to “take the heat” out of the issue but some Conservatives have been accused of Islamophobia in their responses. They deny the charge.

“The time has now come for us all to stand together to combat the forces of division and beat this poison,” Sunak said. “We must face down the extremists who would tear us apart.”

With Reuters

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